After last week’s enforced Premier League cancellation in Exeter due to bad weather, the 2018 Premier League of Darts returned in Leeds with a bang as Mensur Suljovic demolished Peter Wright by seven legs to one at the First Direct Arena.
Elsewhere, Rob Cross pulled off an impressive comeback victory over Michael Smith to condemn ‘Bully Boy’ to his first defeat of the campaign and second place in the standings behind Michael van Gerwen after the Dutchman defeated Simon Whitlock in the opening game of the night.
Michael van Gerwen 7-4 Simon Whitlock
Reigning Premier League champion and world number one Michael van Gerwen returned to the top of the standings with victory over Simon Whitlock, and Michael Smith’s later defeat to Rob Cross in the final game of the night.
In truth, MvG turned in a below par performance encapsulated by a slow and out of sorts start to the match in which Whitlock took advantage of numerous missed doubles. Even as van Gerwen began to improve the Australian was able to hang in there in the match, in large part down to the Dutchman’s 28 per cent on the doubles.
With the game finely in the balance at 4-4 however, van Gerwen showed his world beating quality to run off the last three legs in quick time and take his fourth win of the campaign with a solid, if unspectacular, 100 average to boot.
Gerwyn Price 5-7 Raymond van Barneveld
Raymond van Barneveld pulled off four straight legs with a string of impressive finishes to defeat Gerwyn Price in a scrappy back-and-forth match that denied the Welshman his first victory of the tournament.
The game began with four straight breaks of throw as both men struggled to gain a foothold in a tense encounter low on quality.
Welshman Price carved out opportunities for himself to take a 5-3 lead however, with a 12-dart leg including an 87 checkout while Barney waited to pounce on 28 a particularly impressive conversion.
RvB was not done though and four straight finishes of 121, 80, 101 and 89 saw the Dutchman pull off a superb comeback victory, willed on by the crowd. Price’s wait for a first victory of the tournament goes on following Barney’s momentum shifting surge.
Peter Wright 1-7 Mensur Suljovic
In the night’s most surprising result, world number two Peter Wright was demolished seven legs to one by Austrian Mensur Suljovic.
Despite winning the opening leg, ‘Snakebite’ turned in a completely out of sorts performance, averaging 91, as Suljovic reeled off seven consecutive legs to easily dispatch with the Scot.
For as bad as Wright played, Suljovic continued his excellent form of the 2018 Premier League with a 103 average and 54 per cent checkout rate.
Suljovic had been unlucky to have played some of the best darts of the tournament so far and yet only win one game however he was well worth this second win as he took every opportunity presented to him and never let Wright get back into the match.
Gary Anderson 6-6 Daryl Gurney
Gary Anderson escaped Leeds with a point after falling from a dominating 3-1 lead to being 6-4 in arrears against Northern Irishman Daryl Gurney.
The newly crowned UK Open champion started well, capitalising on missed doubles from Gurney to sail in a comfortable 3-1 lead. It looked for all the world like the Scot may cruise off into the distance and record an easy victory however Gurney managed to hang in there and turn his form on the doubles around.
So much was this the case that Anderson became the man in trouble, staring down the barrel of defeat when trailing 6-4. Two inspired legs from ‘The Flying Scotsman’, as well as two missed match darts from Gurney, saw Anderson claim the final two legs he needed to salvage a draw with an average of just under 100 and 40 per cent on the doubles.
Rob Cross 7-5 Michael Smith
In the final match of the night, world champion Rob Cross pulled off four consecutive legs of brilliance to hand Michael Smith his first dropped points of the 2018 Premier League.
In a match of two halves, Smith dominated the opening exchanges, comfortably outscoring Cross while combining this with his recently typical clinical nature on the finishes.
What followed trailing 5-3 was a masterclass from Cross in handling the pressure and executing brilliance as ‘Voltage’ won four straight legs to claim victory through a combination of heavy scoring and pinpoint accuracy on the doubles.
In the end, a four point higher average and 27 per cent higher doubling percentage highlighted Cross’ impressive turnaround.
It looked as if Cross would never miss by the time he completed the win in style with a 121 checkout on the bull such was the confidence the world champion finished the match with, condemning Smith to second place in the standings and his first defeat of the campaign.